Shorebirds of 2018 (and Before)

Fall migration is in full swing and the last few weeks have been great for shorebirds in Western Washington – the impetus for writing this post.

Washington is an excellent state for shorebirds – some breeders, lots of migrants and occasionally a rare vagrant.  Altogether, sixty-one species have been seen in the state of which 16 are rare to exceedingly rare vagrants – some seen only a single time.  Migrating shorebirds come through in both in the spring (roughly March through May) and again in the Fall (roughly July through September although there is some carryover into October).  Because of the tidal mudflats and seashore habitats, far more species and individuals of  shorebirds are seen in Western Washington than Eastern Washington but a couple – Black Necked Stilt and American Avocet are common East and rare West and Wilson’s Phalaropes and Long Billed Curlews are somewhat more common in the East.

Of the 61 species ever reported in Washington, I have been fortunate to have seen 48 with the remaining 13 quite rare indeed.  I may someday see a few of them but I would be surprised if it will be more than a few, at least in the State itself.  In fact in all of my birding elsewhere in the ABA area, I have seen only three of those missing 13 species.  So far in 2018, I have seen 41 shorebird species in Washington.  The seven seen previously but not this year are:  Hudsonian Godwit, Wood Sandpiper,  Lesser Sand Plover, Red Necked Stint, White Rumped Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper and Wilson’s Plover.  I have seen the latter three elsewhere this year.  All of the others save the Hudsonian Godwit (regular in the Central Flyway) are extremely rare anywhere in the U.S. except in Alaska where only the Red Necked Stint is seen regularly.

Washington has good migration in both the Spring and the Fall but more species are seen in the Fall.  As I said, my shorebirding has been very good the past week or two.  Among the best species seen were Buff Breasted. Pectoral, Baird’s, Semipalmated and Sharp Tailed Sandpipers, American and Pacific Golden Plovers, Ruff, and Red Necked Phalarope.  Here are photos of the shorebirds seen this year, in Washington, others out of State in 2018, others out of State prior to 2018 and then lists of birds not seen.

Washington Shorebirds – 2018

Black Oystercatcher – Fort Flagler SP – February 22, 2018

Black Oystercatcher Wings

Black Bellied Plover – Tulalip Spit – September 11, 2018

Black Bellied Plovers1

Snowy Plover – Grayland Beach – January 28, 2018

Snowy Plove 1

Killdeer – Hoquiam STP – May 3, 2018


Whimbrel – Camano Island Rekdal Road – May 13, 2018


Long Billed Curlew – Nisqually NWR – July 5, 2018 (No photo this is from Bottle Beach – September 2015)

Long Billed Curlew 2 Bottle Beach

Bar Tailed Godwit – Hayton Preserve – June 26, 2018 (No photo then – this photo is from Westport Marina – August 2018)

Bar Tailed Godwit2

Marbled Godwit – Bottle Beach – August 11, 2018

Marbled Godwit 2 Bottle Beach

Buff Breasted Sandpiper – Ocean Shores Game Range – September 23, 2018 – (No photo then – this photo is from Midway Beach 2012)

Buff Breasted SP2

Pectoral Sandpiper – Ocean Shores Game Range – September 23, 2018

Pectoral Sandpiper1

Semipalmated Sandpiper – Eide Road – May 13, 2018 (Photo from same spot – September 2014)

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Baird’s Sandpiper – Wiley Slough – August 24, 2018 

Baird's Sandpipers

Semipalmated Plover – Open Beach South of Westport – August 11, 2018

Semipalmated Plover1 Open Beach

Red Knot – Bottle Beach – May 18, 2018

Red Knot

Sharp Tailed Sandpiper – Wylie Slough – September 20, 2018

Sharp Tailed SP2

American Golden Plover – Ocean Shores Game Range – September 23, 2018

American Golden Plover1

Pacific Golden Plover – Ocean Shores Game Range – September 23, 2018

Pacific Golden Plover2

Ruff – Jakle’s Lagoon – San Juan Island – July 16, 2018


American Avocet – Redmond, WA – May 5, 2018

American Avocet

Ruddy Turnstone – Bottle Beach – May 3, 2018

Ruddy Turnstone1

Dunlin – Ocean Shores Game Range – September 23, 2018


Sanderling – Open Beach South of Westport – August 11, 2018

SAnderling Open Beach

Solitary Sandpiper – Puyallup – July 24, 2018

Solitary Sandpiper

Greater Yellowlegs – Three Crabs – September 19, 2018

Yellowlegs and Yellow Flowers1

Lesser Yellowlegs – Wylie Slough – August 24, 2018

Lesser Yellowlegs

Willet – Tokeland Marina – August 11, 2018

Willet Tokeland

Black Turnstone – Ocean Shores Pt. Brown Jetty – September 23, 2018

Black Turnstone

Wandering Tattlers – Westport Jetty – August 1, 2018

Wandering Tattlers on Jetty2 Pelagic

Rock Sandpiper – Ocean Shores Pt. Brown Jetty – January 3, 2018

Rock Sandpiper Fort Flagler

Surfbird – Ocean Shores Pt. Brown Jetty – January 3, 2018


Western Sandpiper – Jakle’s Lagoon – San Juan Island – July 16, 2018

Western Sandpiper4

Short Billed Dowitcher – Bottle Beach – May 18, 2018

Short Billed Dowitcher

Long Billed Dowitchers – Wylie Slough – August 24, 2018

Long Billed Dowitchers

Wilson’s Snipe – Ridgefield NWR – January 7, 2018

Wilson's Snipe2

Wilson’s Phalarope – County Line Ponds – May 19, 2018

Wilson's Phalarope1

Red Necked Phalarope – Westport Pelagic – August 12, 2018

Red Necked Phalarope

Red Phalarope – Westport Pelagic – August 12, 2018

Red Phalarope

Black Necked Stilt – County Line Ponds – April 19, 2018

Black Necked Stilts

Spotted Sandpiper – Oso Loop Road – July 10, 2018

Spotted Sandpiper Breeding

Stilt Sandpiper – Wylie Slough – August 24, 2018

Stilt Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper – Tokeland Marina – January 27, 2018

Least Sandpiper (2)

Outside of Washington in 2018

American Oystercatcher – Salt Pond, North Carolina – May 31, 2018

American Oystercatcher

Wilson’s Plover – Corpus Christi, TX – April 3, 2018 (In WA in October 2012)

Wilson's Plover 1

Piping Plover – Corpus Christi, TX – April 3, 2018

Piping Plover 1

Upland Sandpiper – King Ranch, TX – April 6, 2018 (In WA – September 2013)

Upland Sandpiper

White Rumped Sandpiper – Rodanthe, North Carolina – May 30, 2018

White Rumped Sandpiper Flight

Shorebirds Seen Earlier than 2018 but Not This Year (Washington and Elsewhere)

Lesser Sand Plover – Open Beach above Ocean Shores – August 16, 2015

Lesser Sand Plover 5

Red Necked Stint – Crockett Lake, Whidbey Island, WA – July 8, 2017

Red Necked Stint 3

Mountain Plover – Colorado – April 7, 2016

5a-Mountain Plover in Flight

Far Eastern Curlew – Adak, Alaska – May 29, 2016

Far Eastern Curlew and Whimbrel

Hudsonian Godwit – Semiahmoo Spit – September 29, 2015

Hudsonian Godwit (2)

Purple Sandpiper – Kitty Islet, Victoria, B.C. – January 12, 2017

Purple Sandpiper1

Common Snipe – Adak, Alaska – May 30, 2016

Common Snipe2


Shorebirds in ABA Area Seen but No Photographs 

American Woodcock Assateague Island National Seashore -MD 11-May-75
Bristle-thighed Curlew Nome River (Nome-Kougarok Rd) – AK 4-Jun-16
Northern Jacana Manor Lake, TX 25-Apr-78
Spotted Redshank Fort Stevens SP–South Jetty/Parking Area – OR
Wood Sandpiper Samish Flats–West 90 – WA 11-Aug-11

Washington Shorebirds Not Seen in State

Common Ringed Plover Great Knot
Curlew Sandpiper Jack Snipe
Eurasian Dotterel Gray Tailed Tattler
Little Stint Bristle Thighed Curlew 
Spotted Redshank Piping Plover
Temminck’s Stint Mountain Plover
Little Curlew
Italics – seen out of State



Following Rule #1 – Not Needing Rule #2

Many times I have written that in chasing a bird, Rule #1 is to “Go Now!” and then I add that Rule #2 is that if you do not follow Rule #1, you cannot whine or cry about it.  Yesterday I was birding with Bruce LaBar at the incredibly beautiful Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, WA and we talked about these rules and hoped there would be an occasion to apply them soon.  Wow talk about “soon”.

This morning I was home in Edmonds working on some trip planning.  I had not showered or even dressed for the day. At about 11:45 an alert came from Ebird saying that a Phainopepla was being reported by Bob Boekelheide near Sequim.  This species has only been reported in the state of Washington once before – a sight record only – no photos.  It is a desert bird that is found in Southern California and Arizona.  It is a mega-rarity for Washington.

I called Bob immediately and he confirmed the sighting but said that it had disappeared – then as we were talking it had reappeared and he was looking at it.  Time for Rule #1.  The bird was 56 miles from my house — BUT I also had to take the ferry across Puget Sound from Edmonds to Kingston.  I did not check the schedule – it would be what it would be.  I threw on clothes and left immediately.  Fortunately the ferry terminal is less than two miles from my home.

It turned out that the next ferry was leaving at 12:05 p.m.  And it turned out that I arrived at the ticket booth at 12:03 p.m. and was the last car on the ferry.  I took this as a very good sign.  I called Bob again and got excellent directions and made it to Railroad Bridge Park a little after 1:40 pm.  Birders were there looking at the bird through a scope.  I took a few quick photos and then caught my breath and enjoyed great views, visited with the birders and called or sent emails to some of the people I had notified of the observation before I left.  I also had some excellent prunes that were growing wild in the thick vegetation where the bird was located – my lunch since there had been no time for any before I left and I sure was not going to stop.

Phainopepla – Railroad Bridge Park – Near Sequim Washington


After the other birders left, John Gatchet and I continued to watch the bird from a couple of different viewpoints.  At one point it flew out from the Elderberry tree it favored and caught a crane fly right over our heads and then returned to its perch.  We also watched it being attacked by an Anna’s Hummingbird.

Phainopepla with Crane Fly

Phainopepla and Crane Fly

This execution of Rule #1 ranks right at or near the top of my successful chases applying the rule.  The other one that shares that ranking was the chase for the Swallow Tailed Gull that Ryan Merrill reported from Carkeek Park on August 31st last year.  I read Ryan’s post at approximately 7:10 am while again in my pajamas in Bellevue.  I got dressed and dashed out and despite it being  20 miles away, I was looking at the bird by 7:45 a.m.  No ferry but it was rush hour.  As it turned out the Gull stayed for a week so the rush was unnecessary, but you just don’t know.  I have missed other birds because I waited and I whined about them.  Now I follow Rule #1 whenever I can and if I miss – I live with Rule #2 because I know better.

A last Phainopepla story – repeated from an earlier blog post.  My first photo of one was at Julian, CA last January on my way from San Diego to Anza Borrego.  I was with a non-birder and had some very specific Ebird information about a good place to find one.  We stopped at a big field with some brush in the back and barbed wire near the road.  I played the Phainopepla’s call and one immediately appeared on one of the short bushes.  This amazed my friend who was even more amazed when I climbed through the barbed wire and got the photo below.

Phainopepla – First ABA Photo – January 31, 2017 – Julian California


I hung around the Phainopepla today and was very pleased that Steve Pink, Ann Marie Wood and David Poortinga all got there to see it.  Hopefully it will remain and continue the show.  If it doesn’t – those who miss will have to live with Rule #2.

My Very Non-Local Birding – International Favorites

Not much birding this week as I prepare for some trips in October and November and have been doing a lot of reading.  Some of that reading was of birds in foreign lands and I got an urge to write.Nothing elaborate – a favorite bird in each of the places I have birded outside the U.S.  Apologies in advance as many of these experiences were before I was taking photos so I have “borrowed” from the endless supply of online photos – most far better than I ever would have taken.  They are in chronological order from my trips.

Trinidad – May 1978

This was my first international birding trip – part of the incredible two week adventure that 3 birding buddies and I did in the Spring of 1974 that took us to Texas and Florida in addition to Trinidad utilizing an Eastern Airlines Fly Anywhere fare of $299 round trip with all of those stops and a return to Seattle.

In Trinidad we stayed at the Asa Wright Nature in the Arima Valley.  Our accommodation was the “Bungalow”.  When I opened my bedroll there was a scorpion inside.  Welcome to the tropics.  Fortunately that was the only one seen and the only poisonous snakes were seen at a distance.  Lots of wonderful birds – almost 100 species found without a guide.  All but a handful were life birds for all of us – just a few that we had seen in the U.S.  Almost impossible to pick a favorite, but I have chosen the Common Potoo – a “frogmouth”.  The picture is not mine but depicts this incredibly well camouflaged bird as we first found it roosting on a stump.  Seventeen years later I would see another in Brazil and two years prior to that I saw its close relatives, a Tawny and Papuan Frogmouths in Australia.  Cool birds!!

Common Potoo – Arima, Trinidad – May 4, 1978 – Online Photo

potoo bird

Hong Kong/New Territories – December 1979

This was my first trip to Asia – two weeks of good shopping, incredible food and some far better than expected birding.  Although most of the time was spent in Hong Kong itself, we also visited Kowloon, the New Territories and a brief sojourn into what westerners then called “Red China”.  The border had just been opened and small tour groups were let in – and watched very carefully. We also visited Macau.

The birding was a little bit of general observation wherever we were, but was primarily with a guide hired for the day with time at two reserves, Tai Po Kau and the Mai Po Marshes, both in the new territories and both fantastic.  Our guide was James (definitely not “Jim”) a classic Britisher who was an excellent birder and great company.  He provided lunch as well which included tea and crust-less sandwiches.   Not as good as the wonderful meals we had in Hong Kong each day – but quite good and appropriate in the field and the cloth napkins were a fine extra touch.

The birds were awesome and Mai Po Marsh was as impressive for waders and shorebirds as any place I had been.  All told in the two places we had over 80 species for the day including many waders that I failed to keep track of.  For purposes of this post I am omitting details and just choosing a favorite bird.  For this visit it is the Spotted Redshank, not just because it is a striking shorebird but also because I saw one just over a year later at Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon.  Sure wish one will visit us in Washington.

Spotted Redshank – Mai Po Marsh – New Territories – December 25, 1979

Spotted Redshank

Jamaica March 1980

This was another non-birding trip – a return to Jamaica.  See its predecessor in an earlier Blog Post ( .  The trip in 1980 was just for island fun but I had to return to Dun’s River Fall to see the Streamertail Hummingbird that I had first seen there on a Spring Training lark while on the Harvard Track team in 1967.  Even for non-birders it was impossible to not notice this bird – the National Bird of Jamaica.  My Jamaica list includes 13 other species, so I must have paid some attention but I think the focus was more on the beaches.  I only wish that the photo was mine.

Red Billed Streamertail – Dun’s River Falls – Jamaica March 1980

Red Billed Steamertail

Japan – July 1983

Of all the international trips I have taken, this is the one that I probably most wished had time set aside for birding.  I was only able to spend part of one day doing so seeing only 31 species.  None were common for the time or place and I would see some again Europe later.  This was, however, in at least one respect my best trip ever.  We had been trying to “get pregnant” unsuccessfully for many years.  This was our – we give up trip – maybe to consider adoption when we returned.  Maybe the stars were aligned just right in Japan, but it was during this trip that the miracle of conception took place and almost 9 months later we had a wonderful baby girl who was “Made in Japan”.

Although unlike the Spotted Redshank of Hong Kong, I have not seen a Terek Sandpiper in the ABA Area, maybe someday I will.  It was great to see one at Wajima in Japan.

Terek Sandpiper – Wajima, Japan – July 28, 1983 

Terek Sandpiper

Argentina – March 1989

After my daughter was born, there was very little birding and traveling for a few years.  I also had developed another outdoor hobby – flyfishing.  In fact in the 13 years after her birth (and then the birth of my son 4 years later) I added only four new birds to my Washington State List – bringing it to a rather unimpressive 200 species.  The four new birds were pretty great, though:  Little Gull, White Tailed Kite, Rustic Bunting and Steller’s Eider.  I have seen all but the Steller’s Eider in Washington again in the past 5 years – but that was essentially a 25 year drought.

Just after my son was born I was able to get away for two exotic fishing trips both with fishing buddies from Seattle.  The first was to Argentina in March 1989 and the following year to Kiribati (Christmas Island).  The trip to Argentina was my first to South America.  It was fantastic.  Birds were seen but not sought.  Trout were definitely sought and many were caught.  I hope to get back to Argentina again – incredible culture, scenery, agriculture, wine, food and people.  And the fishing was incredible.  I only noted 41 species, but it is hard to hold both a fly rod and binoculars at the same time.  It was impossible to miss my favorite bird though – the Andean Condor.  They are massive birds – even larger than the California Condor and with a wingspan of up to 10 feet,  We saw several flying above us in the Andes – magnificent creatures.

Andean Condor – Junin de Los Andes – Argentina – March 1989

Andean Condor

Republic of Kiribati – May 1989

This was another fishing trip but this time it was fly fishing for Bonefish and some other salt water species.  We had somehow found a special bargain rate that included transportation and lodging and it was simply too good to pass up.  Located on the Equator about 1300 miles south and west of Hawaii, Kiribati is a Micronesian country of islands and atolls.  We were essentially standing in a former volcanic crater of Kirimati (Christmas Island to some) wading in saltwater and trying to catch one of the  most prized fishes in angling – powerful super fast fish that made steelhead look like slowpokes.  And above us were often really cool birds.

Since there were only 7 species seen, I will list them all:  White and Red Tailed Tropicbirds, Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds, White and Bridled Terns and Brown Booby.  There were probably others but they did not make it onto my list.  Someday I hope to see one of those Tropicbirds in the ABA Area.  A sad note is that this tiny country is one of the ones most at risk to rising ocean levels from global warming.  It may not even survive into the 22nd Century.  Hard to pick it over the Tropicbirds, but the White Terns were really special.

White Tern – Kirimati – Kiribati – May 10, 1989

White Tern

Costa Rica – April 1997

There was essentially no birding during the years of 1990 to 1997 as work and kids were the focus and joys of our lives.  I am sure I noticed birds on some trips but the first one that had any significant avian content was a family trip to Costa Rica in April 1997.  We hired a car with driver and naturalist guide for a few of our days there and saw the fantastic nature that makes this country such a great place to visit.  There was no big emphasis on birding or attempts to see specific species, but in Costa Rica, birds are hard to miss and even both kids enjoyed some birdwatching.

We visited Monteverdi, Tiskita, and Arenal and during our visit, I managed to see 152 species, most of them new to my World List.  Hard to beat the thirteen species of hummingbirds, but also hard to choose a favorite among them.  The same could be said for the 8 species of parrots or parakeets.  On the other hand it is easy to move past the 17 species of flycatchers.  All of these species types were precursors to similar long lists of related species found in later visits to the tropics.  If I had to pick a favorite it would have to be one of the manakins – probably the Red Capped Manakin.  In addition to being very striking birds, their appeal is the courtship behavior.  Males display at leks like various grouse-like birds and snap their wings in addition to making pretty loud calls.  Quite a show.

Red Capped Manakin – Tiskita Jungle Lodge – Costa Rica – May 14, 1997

Red Capped Manakin

Hungary – July – 2000

In the summer of 2000, my daughter traveled to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic as part of a tour with the Seattle Youth Symphony.  I got to go along as a part time chaperone with my one condition being that I could take one day off to do some birding.  Most of the visit was to Hungary – a couple of days in Budapest and then 5 days in Pecs, Seattle’s Sister City.  In Pecs. I was able to hire a student guide who took me out for a day of birding in the countryside.  The birds were fun and mostly new to me as I had never birded in Europe before.

It was also fascinating to travel outside the big cities in a country that had not been free of Communist rule for very long.  An example of that was our lunch in a very simple cafeteria in a Soviet era apartment building where there were three choices of sandwiches – essentially two thin slices of bread with either chicken, ham or cheese between – nothing else.  I loved the rural countryside – especially what seemed like miles of sunflowers in full bloom.  We only saw 54 species, a potpourri of raptors, shorebirds, some waders and woodpeckers and mostly passerines.  The European Bee Eater and the European Roller were big hits, but without question my favorite bird was the Great BustardBustards are BIG birds – especially the males standing 3 feet tall, with wingspans up to 9 feet and weighing as much as 40 pounds but averaging just over half that amount.  They are considered the heaviest birds that fly.  We saw both a male and a much smaller female and even saw a short flight before they disappeared in high grass.

Great Bustard – Fields South of Pecs Hungary – July 5, 2000


Australia – September 2003

My trip to Australia was fantastic in every way – great places, great people, great birds, great fun.  I was only in Eastern Australia and definitely want to return to see more.  Every detail of this trip was planned online and there was no conversation directly with anyone – and everything worked well.  It is a LONG flight to Sydney from Seattle via Los Angeles.  Thankfully the plane was nowhere near full and I had an entire row of seats to myself in the back of the plane.  How long was the flight – I watched 6 movies!!!

The time in Australia started in Sydney and included visits to Brisbane, Cairns, Toowoomba, O’Reilly’s, Kuranda, Kingfisher Park, and Daintree.  I flew from Sydney to Brisbane, but the rest of the travel was by car.  I managed some sightseeing and did some ocean swimming despite some fear about sharks and poisonous jellyfish.  See my earlier Blog Post for many more details and photos.  (Bird and Memory of the Week – Bush Thick-Knee:  There were so many great birds – 267 species in all.  Laughing and Blue Winged Kookaburras, 5 different Fairy Wrens, my first ever Thick-Knee, 23 shorebird species, 16 parrot-like species, 4 Bowerbirds, and many others.  I also saw Koalas, Kangaroos and a Platypus.

But there is no question about my favorite bird.  Early one morning I was alone at Daintree NP before it was even officially open.  I was hoping to find a Southern Cassowary and was stunned to find a father with a youngster.  (The males raise the chicks).  It was like being back in time and looking at the link between dinosaurs and birds.  These giants are the second heaviest birds on earth behind the Ostrich – up to 125 pounds.  They have a razor sharp 5 inch toe that can eviscerate anything and anyone.  They cannot fly but they can jump 5 feet in the air – quickly.  And they can live over 30 years.  I kept my distance but had fantastic views and got a photo.  One of my all time favorite birds and favorite experiences.

Southern Cassowary – Daintree NP – Australia – September 18, 2003


Brazil – September 2005

It was going to be hard to beat Australia, but my three weeks in Brazil came close.  I worked with a tour company but did the trip on my own.  I had a guide only for two days at Cristallino in the Amazon and not all of my time was spent birding as I enjoyed time in Rio, at Iguassu Falls, the Pantanal and the Amazon.  Some day I will write up the entire trip, so just a few highlights for now.

All told I saw 273 species including many spectacular birds.  More than half were at Cristallino and 69 were in the Pantanal.  Among the best birds were 6 Aracaris and Toucans, 19 parrot like birds including Hyacinth Macaws, 17 Antbirds, 5 Trogons, 16 waders, 2 Tinamou species, a Sungrebe and 14 raptors including my favorite for the trip and one of my favorite stories.

To get to Cristallino, I flew first from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo, and from there to Alta Floresta and then by boat to the Lodge.  While waiting for the boat I met a tour group led by a famous Brazilian guide.  While he was regaling his group in the building I walked around looking for birds.  Unbeknownst to me there was a Harpy Eagle nest up one of the trails.  I found it in shock and it was occupied by a mother and chick.  I raced in to tell the others and blew his story as he was just about to lead the group to see one of the most sought after of Amazonian birds.

Harpy Eagle Chick Exploring by Its Nest – Alta Floresta – September 8, 2005

Harpy Chick AF Hotel

There were also lots of great mammals including a Jaguar in the Pantanal, giant River Otters, Tapirs and a Jaguarundi.

Kenya – November 2007

This trip was the subject of an earlier Blog Post with mostly photos.  See “Keen on Kenya”  I include my favorite bird from that trip. – one of so many great birds and 506 species seen.

Secretarybird – Samburu National Reserve- November 3, 2007


Belize – March/April 2010

This was a combination of fishing, birding and relaxing.  Most of the birding was at Chaa Creek and the fishing (with a little birding) was at Ambergris Key.  138 species were seen but only 35 were new life birds because of the overlap mostly with Costa Rica.  One bird seen there that sometimes makes it into the ABA area was a Blue Bunting.  Would be nice to see it in Texas someday.  Probably my favorite bird was the Collared Aracari.

Collared Aracari – Chaa Creek – Belize – March 30, 2010


India – January 2011

This was a bucket list trip.  I was scheduled for my first ever surgery – a complete shoulder replacement – and I asked myself what did I most want to do – just in case … The answer was easy, I wanted to see a Bengal Tiger in India.  I found a tour that included Tigers, the Taj Mahal and birds with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours.  Another wonderful trip.  We saw a number of tigers and I was blown away by the Taj Mahal.  We also had 278 species including many wonderful, beautiful and charismatic ones.  There were 18 species of waders, 15 shorebirds, an incredible 38 raptors including 8 owls, many parrots, and a little bit of everything else.  My favorite was probably the Indian Peafowl – the so called Peacock of a number of gardens, estates  and zoos in the U.S.  In India they are wild.

Indian Peafowl – Kanha Tiger Reserve – January 8, 2011

25 Indian Peafowl

Peru – November 2013

This was an odd trip in some ways.  Some great highlights with lots of birds – over 400 species.  I am sure there must have been a reason, but I cannot remember why I squeezed it into 2013.  That was my Big Year in Washington state and I had already traveled to Texas for 10 days in April a good time to bird in state as well.  I must have missed some birds then and now I was gone for 3 more weeks. (There was one bird I missed – the Vermilion Flycatcher that visited Ridgefield Refuge and was seen by many of my friends.)

The trip was with Field Guides and was focused on North Peruvian endemics.  We had to make some mid-tour changes due to road washouts, but mostly pleasant travel.  Somehow the tour, though just wasn’t fun.  Maybe I was too worn out from the intensity of thr 10 months of Big Year birding in Washington.  Mostly though it was that there was too much birding with the birders standing at one spot to try for an often poor quick look at a skulking bird to be ticked on a life list.  Just not that satisfying.

But there were many good birds as well – with good views and even some photos.  We saw 25 Tanagers , 50 Flycatchers and 39 Hummingbirds, 19 Raptors, 3 Quetzals/Trogons, 2 Guans and 2 Tinamous and lots of everything else including 50 species of “forest” birds that were the tough ones to find and see – Antwrens, Woodcreepers, Tapaculos, Antbirds, Spinetails and others..   It is hard not to choose the Cock of the Rock as a favorite but as a group, it was definitely the Hummingbirds and the Magnificent Spatuletail beats out all the others, although the Emerald Bellied Puffleg was a close second.

Magnificent Spatuletail –  ACP Abra Patricia–Owlet Lodge – November 12, 2013


South Africa – October 2014

This trip was a joint program with the American Birding Association and Rockjumper – ten days with them and then a few days on my own in Kruger National Park.  Africa is fantastic. Not quite as spectacular as Kenya – but very close.  The visit started in Cape Town and ended in Johannesburg.  Altogether 328 species of birds and many wonderful mammals as well.  I would like to return to most places I have visited and that certainly applies to South Africa – beautiful area with endless things to fascinate.

Unlike Kenya, this trip to Africa included coastal birding and even a pelagic trip.  The pelagic trip was a near disaster even though there were some good birds including three albatross species (Yellow Nosed, White Capped and Black Browed) and Southern Giant Petrel.  The weather turned bad.  Our boat lost one and then a second engine.  It took 30 minutes to get one going again.  Three albatross species were great, but the trip the day before had seven species including Royal and Wandering.

On this trip I also had my first (and so far only) penguin species – African Penguin, 7 Cuckoos, 30 Raptors, 8 Gallinaceous species, 4 Bustards, 6 Swifts, 3 Bee-eaters, 2 Rollers and 2 Sugarbirds.  As in most of the previous entries, it is crazy to choose a favorite, but since that is the format I have elected, I do so here as well – BUT – I do get to change the rules when I want and since this is the last entry I will choose two – not just favorite birds  for the trip but also two of my favorite all-time photos.

Lilac Breasted Roller



Bateleur in Pond1

Where to next?  I have a lot of travel ahead in the U.S. for a year or two and then will hopefully get a chance to go abroad again.  So many places to go.  These are definitely on the list:  Botswana, Borneo, Ecuador, Turkey, Spain, Malaysia and…and…






A Great Week of “Local” Birding

This will be another relatively short blog post.  Had I either seen the Little Stint I chased in B.C. yesterday or if I wrote about my reflections on that experience, it would be much longer.  Cannot revise the missed observation yesterday but someday I may write up those reflections.  Not now.

What an extraordinary seven days of “local” birding it has been.  At least it is local in that there were only day trips; there was no travel by airplane or even to far eastern Washington; but many miles were covered with trips to Neah Bay, British Columbia, around King County and to Kitsap County.  The birding was all about chases to find targeted birds with no real attention to increasing species counts.  Most of the chases were successful, but there was the major miss of the Little Stint and then this morning, the Buff Breasted Sandpiper that had been seen yesterday at the mouth of the Cedar was not relocated, but there sure were some great successes.

All told, I saw 70+ species this week  – not a huge quantity but great quality.  The week started with no birding on Monday, but on Tuesday there was the Franklin’s Gull and the “not a Ross’s Gull” at Point No Point. That was followed with the extraordinary Painted Redstart on Wednesday at Cape Flattery.    Tufted Puffins at Cape Flattery were other quality observations.  Those events were detailed in my previous blog post.

No birding on Thursday, but Friday may have been even better than finding the Painted Redstart as I was able to find and photograph the LeConte’s Sparrow that had been discovered by Jason Vassallo at Discovery Park.  This was a Life Bird and was one I was hoping to see on some upcoming trips to the Midwest and to Louisiana later this year.  I never expected to have a chance in Washington.  Typically it is very much a skulker, and I got lucky – photographing it during the very few seconds it was in the open.  It was ABA Life Photo #690 – I was thrilled.

LeConte’s Sparrow

LeConte's Sparrow5

No birding on Friday either, but on Saturday I left very early to join a friend in B.C. and look for the Little Stint that had been seen at Boundary Bay the previous day.  For a number of reasons I am not going into details, but the bottom line was that after many hours of looking, I left and less than an hour later, the group found the Stint.  I returned but it had flown off and was not relocated while I was there for another hour plus.  I left again and 5 hours later it was found again.  Sure it would have been nice, but maybe I am finally maturing as it was not a great disappointment and took nothing away from the rest of my week.

The good news from that trip though was that there were some other nice birds.  One was a beautiful little Merlin that perched in a tree near our starting point at the foot of 96th Street.



Earlier before joining the group, I had a distant only look with two other birders of six Buff Breasted Sandpipers in a field west of 88th Street.  They were my first for the year.  This seems to be an incursion year as there have been numerous records on the Pacific Coast and 13 had been seen at this same field the previous day.  Lousy flight photo only, but I love this bird and include a photo from Washington some years back.

Buff Breasted Sandpiper

Buff Breasted SP2

During the failed search for the Little Stint, I found a flock of 11 Baird’s Sandpipers.  I had seen them several times earlier this year, but these were close and in good light – two key components for good pictures.

Baird’s Sandpiper

Baird's Sandpiper1

It did not result in a quality photo, but the B.C. birders, I was with were quite excited about a Snowy Plover that was found – pretty far away and in poor light but clearly identified in the scope views and this is an ID confirming photo.  They are very rare in B.C.  They breed in Washington but not there.

Snowy Plover – Rare in B.C. – Distant Photo

Snowy Plover1

In addition to many hundreds of Western Sandpipers, Sanderlings and Black Bellied Plovers, other good birds on the extensive mudflats included a Stilt Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstones and a Pacific Golden Plover.  I was also able to see a Great Tailed Grackle at Point Roberts.  Point Roberts is a weird deal – a little peninsula reached only through Canada but part of Whatcom County, Washington.  I had seen many in other states this year, but this was the first in Washington where it is extremely rare.

While I was up in Canada yesterday, a Buff Breasted Sandpiper was seen at the Mouth of the Cedar River in King County.  Hoping to add it to my year list in the sate, I went there this morning – no luck but great visits with some other birders and a nice view of a juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper – a good county bird.  Since it was sort of on the way home, I detoured to West Seattle and found the rare Ruddy Turnstones that had been hanging out there and also found friends Jon Houghton and Bill Boyington who were watching the Turnstones as I arrived.  Not great light but a decent ID photo.  I was not aware of it until I got home, but this was the first Ruddy Turnstone I had seen in King County.

Ruddy Turnstone – West Seattle


One more good bird for the day was a Parasitic Jaeger scoped way out in the Sound – almost to Vashon Island.  Again, a new county bird.

Had I seen the Little Stint, at least observation and rarity-wise it might have been my best week ever.  Still pretty close with the Painted Redstart and LeConte’s Sparrow with the other goodies included per the above.  Altogether I had 20 species of shorebirds and at least the following dozen quality birds.

Baird’s Sandpiper Painted Redstart
Buff-breasted Sandpiper Parasitic Jaeger
Franklin’s Gull Red Knot
Great-tailed Grackle Ruddy Turnstone
LeConte’s Sparrow Snowy Plover
Pacific Golden-Plover Tufted Puffin

A great week – bring on another.